Hillary Clinton, Baracm Obama, Bill Richardson, Mitty Romney, John McCain, and Rudy Giulani all broke barriers for their various ethnic, gender, race and religious groups.
This primary saw so many records broken. We had a woman run the longest and most successful primary campaign ever. We had a man who would be the oldest president if he wins. We had an African American take the nomination. We had a Latino run, and be viewed as a somewhat serious threat, and seen as a serious contender for vice president. Then there was an Italian who had a front runner campaign for many months, and we can’t forget that a Mormon ran too.
The primary season was a wonderful example of the diversity of America and a reminder that who you are doesn’t have to define what you will be. But it also was a reminder that isms (chauvinism, racism, religionism, ageism…) are still a problem in America. From the media, to political campaigns, to individuals, this hatred has reared it’s ugly head. But the times when identity became a part of politics, equal opportunity discrimination resulted.
Probably most notable in terms of media sanctioned sexism was Chris Mathews, who has also made many comments indicating his support for Barack Obama, at one time saying Obama made his “thighs tingle.” He made offensive comments about Hillary saying “The reason she’s a U.S. Senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front runner, is that her husband messed around. […] She didn’t win it on the merits.” Then of course there is the frequent use of the word bitch to describe Hillary. We heard McCain chuckling and saying “How do we beat the bitch” was an excellent question. And then of course everyone refers to Hillary, as Hillary, highlighting her gender in a way that last names don’t.
Even though there was only one candidate with a groundbreaking religion running in the 2008 primaries, Mitt Romney, three religions still came under fire. There was a county chairman working for John McCain that blasted Romney’s religion according to the Boston Globe, “[He] questioned whether Mormons were Christians, discussed an article alleging that the Mormon Church helps fund Hamas, and likened the Mormons’ treatment of women to the Taliban’s.”
Then came attacks on Obama’s religion. Conservatives maintained that he was a secret Muslim who wanted to impose Sharia law, while those same people attacked him for being to closely attached to the black church. Then came comments from a Clinton adviser saying Obama was only good for being your “Imaginary hip black friend.” And then there where those who feel Obama’s win was an exercise in affirmative action. Geraldine Ferraro, Rush Limbaugh and others have made statements that “Obama was only winning because he was a black male.” For comparison there’s one black in the US Senate, versus the 16 white woman, prior to 2004 there was only one black, who was a female.
My point in bringing these controversies up is not to reinforce hard feelings. It’s to show that every candidate faced discrimination on the campaign trail. Being an Obama supporter I can easily say, “These race attacks on Obama where more unfair.” But since I’ve never been a woman or Hillary supporter I don’t really know how her supporters felt about the attacks. And whatever those feelings are, they’re certainly legitimate.
If Obama’s pollsters and advisers come back and tell him they need Hillary on the ticket, then those (including me) offended by her comments will need to get over them, so we can fully support the entire ticket. In identity based politics this can be hard because the attacks feel like an attack on your group. But liberals must remember the interests of women and blacks will be further eroded over the next four years if the Republicans and John McCain win, because they are still anti abortion, anti affirmative action, and want to place justices on the Supreme Court that rescind and limit rulings like Roe v. Wade, and Brown v. Board of Education.